An XCOM 2 expansion pack? Sure looks like it…

I’d been glumly thinking it was all over for XCOM 2 [official site], as we’ve had a clutch of DLC followed by the officially-endorsed Long War mod. I figured it’d now be all quiet on the Solomonian front for a couple of years, until such time as Firaxis broke cover with a full new XCOM game. But no! Something is stirring. XCOM 2 is making an E3 reappearance next month, showing off something being referred to with the slogan ‘the real war begins.’ It could even be a title, you know. Whichever: it’s beginning to look a lot like expansion pack Christmas.

This is the SURPRISE TWEET ATTACK which seems to have suddenly brought XCOM 2 back to life:

There’s little to go on, other than this triptych of facts:

– whatever this is is appearing at the PC Gaming Show, the conference-within-a-conference organised by cheery RPS tribute site PC Gamer.

– XCOM 2 creative lead Jake Solomon has heavily implied on the Twitters that he’ll be in LA for E3, which would unlikely to be the case were this another Long War-style mega-mod.

– Traditionally, Firaxis puts out its major expansions within one to two years of the base game’s release, and we’re pretty squarely within that window right now (XCOM 2 was released in February 2016).

And, well, that’s it. I’m guessing ‘the real war begins’ won’t be its name, and neither will ‘real war’, which would be hilariously inappropriate for a game about psychic aliens. But what could that phrase imply? Larger squad sizes? Bigger battlefields? A strategy map mode that’s more about raising armies than shuffling back and forth across the planet to gather resources and visit the shop?

I mean, sure, I’d like to see those things, but again I’m going to look at Firaxis tradition, which is expansion packs that remix the middle or late game rather than reinvent things entirely. Look to the way Civ expansion packs bolt on religion or trade, or how XCOM the first’s Enemy Within slotted in robo-troopers as an optional unit upgrade path for the mid-game…

I think we’re better off thinking along those kinds of lines, but certainly I’d welcome anything that rethought how the rather bitty and naggy campaign map element works. More than anything, though: an excuse to go back. I will always take that.

More information as we have it. We will have boots on the ground at E3 gathering intel.

45 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Long War 2 is still stupidly unplayably difficult and it makes me sad. It’s a neat idea, and I wish it was reasonable. But it’s just not.

    • coldvvvave says:

      Huh? Long War 2 was too difficult? I completed it on max difficulty with ironman. It was fine.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        While I’m sure everything you do is super easy and you beat every game on the first try, I can’t play LW2 because I can’t fight missions with aliens outnumbering me ten to one.

        The game is weird and seems to rely on some particular optimized chain or something that I can’t figure out.

        • Heliocentric says:

          I lose a lot in Long War 2 but I wouldn’t want to miss out on the diversity of the missions and application of forces.

          More content is always good.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Pedant above aside, the long war does change the way you play the game. It took me a few tries to get it right. Some infiltration missions can be won with only firing a few shots.

          Have you read up on the infiltration mechanics? If you are outnumbered so badly, you are probably not getting a full infiltration. Anything other than very light on the early game will destroy you.

          Also, fuck ironman with the LW. Just play the way you need to. I did it on the easiest difficulty, no ironman, and it was still a challenge.

          • Marr says:

            Bronzeman is the best mode for any game that instances combat. Stops you save scumming the encounters without ever destroying a thousand hour save file through bugs or party wipes by total dice failure.

          • Rince says:

            But I like my savescumming!

    • Bullett00th says:

      LW2 has its frustrating moments but most of them are due to not compoletely understanding how it works. Watching youtubers like xwynns really helps

      • gwathdring says:

        I guess I still hold that against it. I read all of the official documentation in-game and out-of-game and I still found myself facing problems that didn’t feel interesting or balanced or challenging so much as brutally punitive. Half the time, sure, when I read fan advice and unofficial documentation I suddenly discover something new about how it works behind the scenes that makes it easier to parse … but that’s still part of the problem for me. :\

        There are a lot of things that make the interface a lot easier to misinterpret, my favorite example being the readiness and force size measurements. Extremely Light means different things in different contexts–such as when the Advent Presence or whatever it’s called number is higher. These sorts of details make the game difficult to understand, not just difficult to play well.

  2. NetharSpinos says:

    Maybe we’ll be taking the war to the aliens in an interstellar fashion? Orrrr we’ll be heading underwater.

    • Xocrates says:

      Which raises the question if they will add a new campaign, expand the current one past the current ending, or simply do an Enemy Within and just add new bits and bobs while keeping the campaign largely the same.

      Given they set up for a continuation of the story at the end of the game, I’m hoping for one of the first two. Personally I would really like a new campaign in a different setting, but I doubt that will happen before a proper XCOM 3

    • Rituro says:

      I have to assume it’s going to be a follow-up to the canonical end-game of XCOM2. The final cinematic was pretty clear about what comes next.

      Not exactly looking forward to it thematically, though excited about the gameplay potential.

    • fearandloathing says:

      Also what I thought. I mean it seems pretty obvious from that real war stuff

  3. grimdanfango says:

    “…cheery RPS tribute site PC Gamer.”

    Fine trolling :-)

  4. SaintAn says:

    Ugh, another cringy unprofessional PC Gamer event? Gross. That place is a cesspool. The writers write very ignorant articles (yes, fake news), and when they are corrected or mocked for it they have their abusive unprofessional mods censor the comments even though they don’t bother enforcing rules on the horrible and ignorant community. And those same mods parrot the same stuff about minorities being included in games that comes from that one group that really likes ethics as a cover for hate and harassment.

  5. stringerdell says:

    Don’t care exactly what it is, more XCOM is a cause for celebration!

  6. DanMan says:

    Get rid of the timers on every mission and I might be interested.

    • coldvvvave says:

      Why don’t you just install a mod?

      • Ur-Quan says:

        Because the missions are specifically balanced around these timers and without them they are kinda stupidly easy?

        • Hartford688 says:

          So then they are balanced and therefore no issue? Is there a problem or not a problem with timers? Make up your mind…

          It is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – mod it and too easy, don’t mod and too hard.

          • gwathdring says:

            Speaking for myself perhaps I can clarify this.

            The missions are intended to be played with timers, and are indeed too easy without those timers. That said, the timers don’t necessarily make the missions straightforwardly too difficult so much as they make the missions substantially less reliable.

            In a timed mission, losing several turns to deal with an enemy positioned *exactly* in the way of the destination feels a lot worse if you just played a similar mission 10 minutes ago where you had a relatively clear shot to the objective with minimal resistance as long as you stayed in cover and took pot-shots at the advancing enemies from elsewhere.

            Similarly, if you encounter enemies that don’t really match the team you set in very well, good play can see you surviving, but it’s going to take longer to reach the destination. Losing a few precious turns to deal with unpredictable events is once again uninteresting as challenges go.

            Having a soft-timer that’s rigged to a reward (like the Meld in Enemy Within) feels a lot better. Something unforseen happens and you don’t risk everything to maintain the chance for a bonus? That feels more like a decision you get to make in adapting to the game, rather than the game screwing you. It’s not that timed missions can never work, but the sheer quantity of timers was frustrating when combined with the way challenges were designed … and unfortunately just removing the timers doesn’t fix this problem.

            It’s especially odd since the reinforcement system provides a different style of soft-timer where the mission can get more and more untenable the longer you fail to complete it. That seems a more interesting route to take then slapping a turn timer on as many missions as possible.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      Want to get rid of timers completely, there’s a mod for that.
      Timer that starts when the aliens discover you, mod for that.
      Extend timers to your personal preference, mod for that too.

    • wcq says:

      I agree that the timers are pretty bad, but just removing them doesn’t work. They are a counter to the “overwatch creep” tactic, which is pretty much the only sensible way to play the game in their absence. However, in the end they just serve as a slapdash solution to a deeper problem with the rules of the game.

      The problem, as I see it, is that the tactics of the game are dominated to an absurd degree by the “pod triggering” mechanic. Trigger a pod (enemy patrol) on your terms, you have the advantage. Trigger a pod unprepared, or mistakenly trigger several, and you’re boned. This heavily discourages any flanking action, since triggering more pods is always a huge risk, so creeping slowly forward is the only sensible strategy. Usually, any other tactical decisions are secondary.

      In summary: the whole AI pod system is dumb and they need to rethink it.

      • gwathdring says:

        Yeah, back in EU I defended the pod mechanic because I actually liked some of the tricky situations I got into without having control over them. But now two and a half games and two versions of Long War deep in the new series and I’m pretty frustrated with the system. :\

        I don’t want complete control. I want to be surprised and flanked by the enemy some of the time. But the difference between walking over a trigger with your first unit and your third or late unit is infuriating combined with how arbitrary some of the triggers seem and how large some of the pods are.

        I really like enemies getting a chance to get behind cover when you spot them … but in practice that’s not the main effect of the pod mechanic.

        • wcq says:

          Yup. I actually suspect that the pod system started as a measure to cut down on AI pathfinding costs for the console versions of EU. After all, in that game untriggered pods move around by teleporting when the game thinks you’re not looking.

      • Arren says:

        This. A thousand times this.

  7. Jerppa says:

    Could “the real war begins” mean an actual, real-life alien invasion?

  8. Wormerine says:

    Doda it mean the will finały patch it???

    • Landiss says:

      Finały it will the doda patch mean it, young padavan.

      • Wormerine says:

        Hahhahhaa!!! Oh my, that is what happened when you leave an autocorrect in a different language than you are writing in;-P

        • April March says:

          Tell me about it. I once tried to say to someone “bom trabalho” (good work) but didn’t realize I had the keyboard set to English and nearly sent them a message saying “bum travelling”.

          • ooshp says:

            I know a guy who’s into that.

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            The bums around here are generally only strong enough to take two passengers, max, and that’s if the they are reasonably light. Also, they are often slow-moving, and take meandering routes. Still, all things considered, a good way to see the ‘real’ side of a city. 7.8/10

  9. Daiz says:

    The background alien in the image is giving off vibes of an Ethereal face, so at least we might see them as regular enemies again.

  10. Marr says:

    Will this come with any engine improvements to remove the five minute load times before and after missions? I’m sticking with X-Piratez until I have a machine that can actually play this bloody thing.

  11. LagTheKiller says:

    Wot i want to say. Please tell me Mr. blogger or journalist or whatever what is the diffrence between robot and cyborg? Enemy Within brings the ability to form the union between man and the machine. Those were cyborgs in mechsuits. 40 000% of badassery. Not some pansy SPARKS. MECs were the real class. Bonus ability carried from original soldiers’ specialization. Supportive abilities and ROCKETFISTING MODE PUTTING BERSERKERS CRYING BACK TO SPACE MOMMA thats right. And flamenwerfers. And rocketboots. And standard weapon sonds like heavy bolter *sobs*….. get lost with ur pansy SPARKs and its “pugilist” trait. ALso big honor to long war classes and objectives.

  12. Caiman says:

    In even better news, Phoenix Point crowdfunding has succeeded so Julian Gollop’s re-imagined and refined X-Com will be… er… X-com’ing soon. Sorry.